The magnificent vehicle featured in the photo below is my dad’s 1973 Volkswagen Camper Van. I spent a great deal of my childhood cruising around and camping in this blazing beauty and it absolutely kills me to see it sitting in the woods untouched. Well, that’s not completely true–the rodents have definitely been keeping it company on cold and lonely nights, burrowing into the seat cushions, creating nests for their little ones.
So why do I even care about this hunk of junk? It’s rusting, rotting, and completely falling apart! The inspection sticker even dates back to the year 2000. That means this van has been sitting in the woods for 12 YEARS. I can’t believe it. Most people have told me I need to give up on this “camper van idea” and that it is a lost cause. I see potential, even if it does cost a lot of time and money. I am willing to pay the price to revive some of the best days of my life and to bring back my childhood again.
It has been my dream for eight years now to start assessing the damage and repairing this van. For eight summers in a row, I have started the month of May with optimism and hope of finally working on my project! For eight years I have dreamed of driving this car across the country, stopping in every state to camp along the way. Eight years is long enough. It’s time to bring this baby back to life!
This will not be an easy task to take on, so stay tuned for future updates and developments!
I had the honor of speaking at the 2012 Champlain College Trustees Dinner for graduating seniors a couple weeks back, representing the Division of Business. I was unable to get a hold of video footage for the event, however I managed to snag some photos that Stephen Mease took and posted on the Champlain College Facebook Page. Below is my speech for those of you that missed the event. Just picture me speaking it in front of 200 students and trustees in a really awesome tone and you won’t even need the video footage! Here it goes:
As graduation grows near, the cliché of “finding yourself”’ keeps coming to mind, wondering if I have finally achieved it after four years at Champlain College. What does that even mean? “Finding yourself?” Should I have been lost to begin with?
Well, I suppose as a young freshman, first stepping foot on Champlain soil, I did feel a little lost. Though there were many things I could not find, like where my first class in Joyce Hall was located, or where I put that really expensive Marketing book, there were many things I did find.
I found that making friends is a lot easier than it sounds—all you need is the same area code or a really awesome band tee and BOOM, you’re friends! I know because this is how I found my roommates. The three of us have lived together since sophomore year and all it took was one simple moment.
Junior year, we took a break from living with each other to study abroad. During this break, I found that it’s still just as simple to make friends, even if you speak totally different languages—all you need to have in common is that you’re both eating a sandwich. Silly, I know, but this is how I made my first friends abroad.
So if I can find friends under ridiculously simple circumstances, how hard could it be to find myself? To find something is to “discover or perceive it by chance or unexpectedly.” I’ll tell you what’s unexpected is reflecting back on freshman year all-nighters during finals week and saying, “Hey, that was fun!” Even more unexpected is wishing I still had a pass to the dining hall to get a hold of those deep-fried Snickers bars. Who would have thought that was a good idea?
As I think about these simple moments that made up my college experience, I wonder what I must have been thinking as a young high school student, about to embark on the world of higher education. I definitely had dreams and perceptions of what this exciting new life at Champlain might be like. But to be honest, I know that my college experience was BETTER than anything I could have dreamed up in my head.
How do I know this? Because I found everything I was looking for, but also everything I wasn’t looking for. It’s this piece of what you’re not looking for that we can’t possibly place in our wildest dreams. So thank you, Champlain College, because each and every moment and experience here has somehow helped me find what I didn’t even know I needed. You helped me find “myself.”
I really appreciate having the opportunity to speak and I wish all graduating seniors the best of luck in their future endeavors!
In order to be successful with the Two Suitcase Project, it is important to first know how to pack those suitcases properly. Knowing these best practices can help condense your load, and ultimately leave you feeling like are living more simply and eliminating clutter.
The following video taught me how to “Pack Like a Pro” for my adventures abroad and I have always packed this way ever since (you can follow Tom Ayzenberg on Twitter here: @tomayz or check out his travel blog here):
Packing is a trial and error process. After a week-long vacation, you will realize there were many things you didn’t even wear or use on the trips that you could have left at home. The best way to learn how to pack lightly is by going to visit a good friend or close family member. Leave most of your clothes behind and if you find yourself needing a sweatshirt to stay warm or a pair of shorts to run in, simply borrow them!
It helps to know the purpose of your destination in order to pack properly, just how it’s important to know your company’s goals in order to execute a marketing strategy properly. So what is your purpose? Are you traveling to casually visit family? Then you can probably leave the cocktail dress and the business suit at home.
Good luck and happy packing!
Champlain College graduation falls on May 5, 2012. This daunting date is only 5 weeks away, so naturally I’m having thoughts of moving out of my current apartment and into some unknown future location that I will eventually call my home. How have I prepared for this unnerving life event? As I mentioned in my last post, studying abroad helped me gain skills in many areas including the ability and stamina to just get up and leave without a lot of ‘stuff’ weighing me down.
These days, I walk around my apartment and cringe at all the ‘stuff’ I will need to lug with me when I leave. I completely regressed when I came back to live in Vermont because I found comfort in having many different options for clothes, bedding, furniture, decorations, and entertainment. I have even more ‘stuff’ stored throughout my mother’s house in Massachusetts that I have long forgotten about. What typically happens, year to year, is most of this ‘stuff’ gets stored while I bring the absolute necessities with me to my new location. As years passed, I continued collecting because I became detached to the things I forgot existed in the attic abyss of childhood nostalgia or under my bed full of high school reminiscence. I’ve decided that this is no longer an option. Do I really need all this ‘stuff?’ It’s time to let go. I will no longer be hopping around every four or eight months and it’s my mother’s turn to have a nice house without my clutter getting in her way. Drastic changes will be occurring from this point forward, and it is my decision to actively embrace the change from every direction possible.
The Two Suitcase Project is an initiative that developed after a conversation with my roommate (find her on Twitter: @alyssamneville) about studying abroad. What exactly does this mean? Well, we were both elated by the fact that we could just pick up and go anywhere without a lot of baggage. We felt so free and alive while adventuring abroad, much more so than we do now in our settled, comfortable environment. It’s time to bring those feelings back with the Two Suitcase Project. The challenge: can we fit everything we own in just two suitcases?
Stay tuned for future developments with this project and my journey to simplifying and finding freedom as an independent college graduate.
It has been over a year since I was living and studying in Amsterdam, and though I’m no longer living in Europe, I find myself constantly using the skills that I learned and am more comfortable with overcoming challenges on a regular basis. Studying abroad was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made—not just because of the travel, but because of what I learned and who I met in the process.
So what did I learn from studying abroad that is transferrable to my life in the US today? To list a few, I gained skills in…
- Establishing rapport quickly and building self-reliance
- Adaptability, flexibility, and patience in an unfamiliar environment
- Embracing cultural differences
- Achieving goals despite obstacles and gaining appreciation of diversity
- Ability to function with a high level of ambiguity
- Problem solving skills
- Independence and enthusiasm
- Ability to learn quickly, gaining inquisitiveness
- Strong listening, communication, and organization skills across language and cultural barriers to navigate through new cities
- Language and cultural interactivity skills through observation
- Assertiveness by communicating despite barriers
- Time management skills
- Management of finances in varying currencies
- Managing stress and building self-knowledge
- Comfort in working on a team with people from different cultures and educational backgrounds
- Self-confidence by handling difficult situations
- Tolerance/open-mindedness by accepting responsibility
- Awareness of global issues
- Perseverance by taking initiative and taking calculated risks
These are all excellent skills to have, and in order to keep practicing these skills I must continue to put myself in study abroad-like situations. Since my return, I have remained connected with those I met abroad both in person and online. I was even able to test my hospitality skills when a couple of them came to visit me in Burlington. Aside from cultural experiences, I can use my skills of adaptability, flexibility, and problem solving to navigate a new city or job when I graduate.
My study abroad experience was invaluable and I plan to mirror this experience in the future in every situation I’m faced with.
This is a little compilation video I put together from my semester in Europe:
Netherlands (Amsterdam, Giethoorn)
…from all over the world!
Check out my guest post on the Tripping blog about the “Top 5 Things to Do in Amsterdam!”
Tripping is a free social site whose purpose is to organize a community of hospitable travelers from all over the globe. Each Tripper has their own profile and may offer up a room to stay in, an afternoon of coffee and conversation, or even a tour of their local city.
I wanted to thank Champlain College for both allowing and encouraging me to have the amazing experience of studying abroad. The college’s study abroad program has always proven exceptional in its consistent marketing and recruitment. If I ever had any questions whatsoever, the coordinators working for the program were there to help with immediate responses and moral support.
I also wanted to thank Champlain for featuring my blog in the International Education section of their website!
Champlain College’s Exchange Programs allow Burlington students to spend a semester immersed in another culture as they live and study at one of our exchange institutions. This also an excellent opportunity to diversify our Burlington campus as we welcome students from our exchange partners for a semester or full academic year.
Check out the blog of Brittany Leaning ’12 who is studying at Champlain’s Exchange Program in the Netherlands: http://ventureabroad.wordpress.com/
For more information on third party/exchange programs such as the one I did in Amsterdam, or to see where Champlain mentioned Venture Abroad, click the link and check it out here.
I purposely pushed my bed up against the large front window in my apartment, specifically so I could wake up to mornings like this one. I don’t ever bother looking at the weather report any more, so it comes as a lovely surprise whenever it snows. I love when the snow just falls perfectly on the trees as it did this morning. Later, it started coming down quite heavily and I managed to catch a video of it. I know this is nothing like the snow in Vermont (which I will be revisiting quite soon), but it’s a good amount of snow for Amsterdam! What do you think? Will it be a white Christmas in Amsterdam this year?